Ranau is a small town in Sabah famed for its gorgeous scenery and rainforests, cold environment, and mainly, Kinabalu National Park. Many have commented that coming here feels like visiting New Zealand. This small town is densely populated with the Dusun ethnic community since the Dusun people have always been inclined to reside in highland areas. For a better understanding of the places below, please note that Kundasang is in Ranau.
The Kinabalu National Park Ranau is a vast area of forested land at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. With an orchid garden, a butterfly house, and birdwatching platforms, this park is undoubtedly a significant conservation center for the flora and fauna of this region, each different due to the varying altitudes. There are three zones — Lower Kinabalu (1,800m-2,600m), Upper Kinabalu (3,200m-4,300m) and Crater Rim (4.300-5.450 meters). The experience here is like no other, and it is humbling when one is surrounded by all of it. Other activities you could do here are hiking and trekking.
Kiau Village is a small outskirt village with only around 100 people living in it. It’s located about 29 KM away from Ranau town. The villagers are mostly of Dusun ethnicity, heavily involved in the agricultural aspect of the village. Thus, they lead simple lives. Despite the size of the population there, the village is self-sufficient in terms of basic amenities, as they have their own school, mosque, market, clinic, and houses for everyone to live in. The residents of Kiau Village live harmoniously with each other regardless of the differences in their religious and cultural beliefs.
The Poring Hot Springs in Ranau, Sabah is a hot spot literally. The concept of this attraction is an outdoor pool consistently at about 33 degrees Celsius (92 Fahrenheit) that is filled with natural minerals and a waterfall cascading into the water. It has also been said that one can relieve tense muscles here, besides relieving skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Visitors can go swimming or just relax on the rocks next to it as they enjoy the view of Mount Kinabalu in the background. Swim, relax, or just enjoy the view of Mount Kinabalu — this is a great place to melt the stress away, and the best part is that it is easily accessible by car or bus and is only an hour away from Ranau town. It’s just one hour away from Ranau town and easily accessible by car or bus.
The Kundasang War Memorial was created in 1962, in memory of the lives lost during World War II. It is to honor the individuals that participated in the Sandakan Death March (a series of forced marches from Sandakan to Ranau used to punish the allied forces against the Japanese Occupation). This inhumane event reduced them to barely recognizable walking skeletons, a result of three months of no food or water and a death toll of 2,434, with only 6 survivors. The memorial comprises four gardens – the Australian Garden, the English Garden, the Borneo Garden, and the Contemplatio Garden and Pool, to represent the different nationalities. The tranquil setup of the gardens is a reminder of the sacrifices and courage of the soldiers. You can even watch a brief video on the history of the Sandakan Death March for better visualization of the event.
Besides offering a picturesque view and tranquil atmosphere, visitors can also enjoy a café that serves food and drinks, as well as other amenities such as an outdoor chessboard and hammocks. Sabah Tea Garden is situated just outside town and openly shows the process of creating tea, besides selling tea plants, handmade teapots, and cups made from natural materials to bring back home. Moreover, visitors can embark on night walks and trekking too!
“Tagal” Moroli River has mainly been used by the villagers in Luanti Village for fishing, irrigation, and recreation. Brimming with the purpose of preserving the environment and ecosystem, the word “Tagal” means “no fishing” in the Kadazan-Dusun dialect and has evolved into a fish spa. What this means is that for 15 minutes, you get to experience a “massage” from all kinds of fish in the river, siphoning away the dead skin cells on your feet. You may feel a bit ticklish or uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t hurt, generally. It is said that most visitors leave the place with more supple and smooth skin, and is somewhat cathartic for individuals with skin-related issues like psoriasis. As interesting as a fish spa sounds, there may be some who might be turned off by the idea, but fret not, as there are other activities like jungle trekking and camping to keep you busy here.
Desa Cattle Farm is located in Kundasang, Sabah, and is doing something no other dairy farm has ever done before. They are utilizing the latest technology and equipment in their fresh milk production and are now acknowledged as a world-class facility. Locals and tourists get to enjoy fresh milk from cows that have been bred with a healthy diet in a stress-free environment. This farm is the definition of sustainability and is a pleasant change from milk produced in industrialized factory farms.
Nabalu Market is the only market in Ranau, Sabah, which has been running for more than 70 years and is the largest market in Borneo, with over 200 stalls. It is renowned for being the one-stop destination for locals and tourists alike that stop by to replenish their domestic supplies, besides purchasing traditional souvenirs, homeware, and clothes. It is particularly captivating for foreign tourists, as several kinds of local fruits like bananas, mangosteens, and rambutans are displayed. The best part about visiting this market is that you get to see all types of local fruits like rambutans, mangosteens, or bananas on trees growing right beside the storefronts. With over 200 stalls, it is one of the largest markets in Borneo. The market features everything from food and clothing to traditional souvenirs and homewares. What makes this market stand out, though, is that there are no permanent buildings or structures; instead, all goods are sold under tents or tarps on mats covering dirt floors.
The Nabalu Market was established by ethnic Kadazan people who had come down from their longhouses looking for work when logging operations ended about 40 years ago. Locals would trade items like vegetables with each other, but eventually, more vendors started coming in, and today, you can find just about everything here.
If you’re an animal lover or if you would like a therapeutic experience just petting soft fluffy animals, the Arnab (Rabbit in Malay) Village in Ranau, Sabah. The rabbits here are extremely well taken care of, as the surroundings are kept clean and safe. It is suitable for families with small children, as visitors are also allowed to get up close and personal with these cuddly creatures. We’re sure your kids would enjoy hugging and feeding them! Despite its name, the village does have other small animals like cats and hamsters, besides owning a grape farm and some aesthetic structures specifically designed to take pictures with. Beware, though, for the journey to this fun spot can be challenging and steep, so drive carefully!
The Adenna Rafflesia Garden is a tropical garden that is worth your time, especially if sustainability or conservation of natural resources interest you! We are generally familiar with flowers, but how many people do you know that have actually witnessed the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia? The best part is that it is located on the way to Poring Hot Springs, so you can tick two of these places on your list in one go! Besides the Rafflesia, there are also hundreds of other plant species, such as orchids, rhododendrons, and pitcher plants. If you’re lucky enough, you may even catch the Rafflesia in full bloom, as it only blooms for a ma of 6 days.
Come visit Ranau and enjoy the beautiful and natural attractions!